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Richmond Housing Partnership

Southern Communications help housing association save £20k per annum and improve customer service with NEC UCB

Richmond Housing Partnership (RHP) is a customer-focussed organisation that owns and manages over 10,000 properties in South West London. A registered social landlord and a charitable industrial and provident society, it primarily operates in Richmond and Hounslow, with smaller operations in Slough and Reading.

It also manages shared ownership schemes, leaseholder customers, tenant customers, garages and a small number of shops. RHP was also recognised this year as one of the top 5 UK companies to work for in the Sunday Times, Best Companies Survey.


When RHP was set up it inherited an outdated and expensive phone system. It needed something slicker that would enable it to implement a call centre. The company also had no way of measuring performance. In 2004 Southern Communications installed an NEC Aspire system,with the latest software based call centre software. This allowed RHP to have a call centre with 25 agents and to implement skills based routing and to manage the agents with detailed real and historical reporting.

“Having the call centre gave us that ability to track performance and to deliver a better and more joined up service to our customers,” says Jonathan Creaser, RHP’s head of ICT. Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) was installed at remote site offices, which replaced expensive phone lines with one broadband line. Calls can now be routed to people who work in different offices on different days.

Telecoms Challenge

RHP wanted to understand at the end of each call, what the call had been about and what the next step was. Communication with their customers through their web site via a variety of media also needed to be integrated with the calls into the call centre to provide comprehensive management reports. They also outsourced a call back feature, which enabled customers to receive a call back rather wait in the queue. This worked reasonably, but was expensive.

“Now we have this call-back functionality built-in, it has saved us an incredible £20k per annum!

The Southern Communications Solution

With a constant drive to improve customer service and also control costs RHP upgraded to NEC’s new product called Unified Communications for Business (UCB). It was also a cost effective upgrade as the NEC SV8100 was fully backwards compatible ensuring the other type of IP,” investment protection”, meaning RHP could carry on using their NEC Aspire handsets and change the engine and software.

The call back feature was part of the UCB solution along with position in queue and expected answer time. Call resolution templates gave the agents specific reason codes for reporting purposes and last agent called was implemented to enable a caller to speak to the same agent if calling back in. Also web chat and email were integrated into the agent’s workflow along side the calls and linked to their own company dashboard that showed the KPI across the business.

Jonathan Creaser commented on the upgrade “Previously we outsourced an application that provided a call-back service. Now we have this functionality built-in, it has saved us an incredible £20k per annum! UCB has really helped us build better customer relationships, especially with the Preferred Agent feature which directs callers to theperson they spoke to previously. It helps reduce the frustration of repeating information and really speeds things up.”With the help of the NEC solution our call centre performance is the best it has ever been boasting a consistent 100% answering of all calls within our expected criteria. In any environment this is amazing
and we are delighted.”

Southern Communications tailored the NEC system to RHP’s business requirements and simplified the installation by project managing the entire process. Time was critical – RHP could not have any down time and customers were expecting a new system – so Southern Communications put in hardware and tested it in advance, then made the system live over Christmas when calls went to RHP’s out-of-hours service.

The Benefits

Southern Communications and NEC’s joined up approach means that RHP’s questions have been resolved quickly and easily. “I feel that we bought into a product that has got a well-defined road map because it’s based on very solid technology,” says Creaser. In the future RHP will increase integration between the phone system and its databases so that it can identify patterns in calls by geographical area and type of call (repairs, antisocial behaviour, and so on). “The vast majority of communication we have with our customers is on the phone so it was a critical thing that we needed to sort out.

We can now offer our callers a higher standard of service than ever before thanks to the NEC solutions dramatically boosting our capabilities.”

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